Press Release

Space Station Payload Operations Center marks one year as ‘fourth

By SpaceRef Editor
March 7, 2002
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It’s not attached to the International Space Station laboratory or a Russian
module or any of the connecting pieces, but NASA’s Payload Operations Center
has been one of the Station’s most important components.

On March 19, the Operations Center at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in
Huntsville, Ala., will mark the one-year anniversary of round-the-clock
operations in support of science aboard the world’s only orbiting research

Staffed around the clock by three shifts of six to 19 flight controllers,
this science command and control center links Earth-bound researchers with
their experiments – or payloads – in orbit. Together, these controllers
represent, for the International Space Station, a virtual “fourth
crewmember” devoted to science.

Working with scientists and other control centers around the world, the
Operations Center team sends commands to experiments, watches their
progress, monitors their health and receives data. And the team members are
always available to answer questions from the Space Station crew, and assist
them in their research activities.

In addition to managing all science research experiment operations onboard
the Station, the Payload Operations Center also is responsible for
coordination of the mission planning work of the Space Station’s
international partners, all science experiments going to and coming from the
Station, and experiment training and safety programs for Space Station crews
and ground personnel.

“This date is a major milestone for us,” said Jan Davis, director of Flight
Projects at the Marshall Center. “Before the International Space Station
gave us a permanent world-class laboratory for doing important scientific
research, NASA’s longest Space Shuttle scientific mission in space was two
weeks. The Payload Operations Center represents an incredible effort to
evolve from the science aboard the Shuttle to supporting round-the-clock
operations aboard the Space Station — as well as integrating the daily
participation of our international partners — for the next 15 years. We’re
proud of what we have accomplished for NASA and for science.”

Now, one year after continuous research began, there are five research racks
installed in the Destiny laboratory module. Each rack is designed to
provide power, fluids, data, cooling and other utilities to a variety of

The Payload Operations Center has supported 52 different science
investigations. It has assisted Space Station crews with nearly 600 hours
of research work onboard the laboratory, as well as overseeing more than
60,000 hours of experiment operating time that is controlled by the science
team on the ground. By early 2003, 10 research racks for experiments will
be on orbit, and more than 60 experiments will be started or completed.

Onboard now, the first second-generation space plants are growing.
Already, the Station has hosted its first commercial experiments.
Scientists have conducted medical research in osteoporosis, breast cancer
and the body’s immune function. Hundreds of students have prepared
experiments for the Space Station, and they’ve been able to see the results
of their work in their classroom, via the Internet, after the experiments
were returned to Earth.

Hundreds of other students, participating in an educational Space
Station experiment, have instructed a camera onboard the Space Station to
take pictures of cities, mountains, coastlines and other places they’re
studying in their classrooms. Hundreds of images have been sent back that
the students are using for various history, geography, science, and
environmental lessons.

Scientists are gathering basic data on radiation, vibrations and
more that will tell scientists how to make space exploration easier for
astronauts and more useful for other scientists planning future experiments.

“Even as we are building the Space Station, we have been doing
valuable research in medicine, agriculture, human life science, Earth’s
environment, manufacturing and education,” said John Uri, of NASA’s Johnson
Space Center in Houston, who is the lead scientist for Expeditions Two,
Three and Four to the Space Station. Each Expedition, about four months
long, is led by a different crew of three, and may include additional visits
by Space Shuttles and Russian spacecraft bringing supplies.

“Feedback from the first two Space Station crews has been positive
about the experiments, their training, their onboard instructions and our
day-to-day interactions with them from the Payload Operations Center,” Uri
said. “From training the crews and writing instructions to managing
experiment hardware and overseeing the flow of commands and data to and from
the Space Station, the Marshall Center and its Payload Operations Center
obviously deserve much credit.”

Mike Doherty, principal investigator for the Experiment on Physics of
Colloids in Space, now operating aboard the Space Station, credited the
Payload Operations Center for the smooth operation of his experiment.

“All of our colloids experiment studies are conducted in close cooperation
with the Payload Operations Center and the team there has been great to work
with on issues such as scheduling clear communication windows for sending
commands to our experiment and for downloading our results from the Space
Station,” said Doherty, of NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland.

SpaceRef staff editor.